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A Good Kid

by Nick Anis
Nick Anis

The other morning I awoke an hour early so I made myself a cup of hot tea and turned on the TV.  My youngest son, David had been watching it the night before and it was turned to the Nick at Nite station.  An old Andy Griffith Show was playing; which caught my attention because it was in Technicolor, rather than black and white.  In the episode I was watching, "Opie's Job", the characters Opie Taylor and Billy Crenshaw compete for a job at the town's grocery store. 

In this quaint story, (episode 161 that ran in 1965, the sixth season of the show), the two Mayberry boys are both "good kids" who are hard working and coconscious, and although it's a close call, Opie gets the job.  There is a sense of relief once the competition is over and the boys shake hands and finally have time to talk to each other.  Opie confides to the Billy that he plans to save up a few months' earnings and get himself a new bike with all the trimmings.  It turns out that Billy's father has been sick and he wants to join the other family members and bring in whatever money he can to help make ends meet.

Upon learning Billy's plight, Opie tells his new boss he wants to skip the rest of his first day's work to go play baseball.  Predictably, Opie gets fired.  When Sheriff Andy Taylor, Opie's dad, learns his son was "fired" he is angry, and he's disappointed.  Once Andy finds out about his son's motives and actions, he is, of course, very proud of him.

It's a sweet story from a simpler time in American life.  It's a fictional story, however.  I'm going to tell you another story, about another "Good Kid" and this one is real.

Mario Cruz is an honors student in the eleventh grade.  In spite of being parentless, and of limited financial means, Mario has stayed on the right track, worked hard, and excelled in school.  This extraordinary young man has managed to achieve perfect school attendance and a 4.0+ GPA.  He is Junior Class Officer (ASB), Key Club Officer, CSF, La Raza Unida, and besides studying hard and getting very good grades, he also performs volunteer work and works after school and weekends, earning what money he can.

Mario has been recognized by a number of government officials including U.S. Congressman Gary Miller, Governor Gray Davis, Mayor Eddie Cortez, Assemblyman Bob Pacheco, U.S. Congressman Jerry Lewis, Senator Pete Knight, Assemblyman Keith Oldberg, Mayor Terry E. Caldwell, Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, Supervisor Don Knabe, and others for his outstanding character, academic achievements, and community service.

Mario attended summer school last year for extra credit.  While doing some volunteer work for the school, a sudden gust of wind blew a sign into his face and injured his eye and cut his face just above the eyebrow.  Mario had a test that day and he wanted to remain and take his test instead of leaving school and going to the hospital.  Besides, he didn't have any medical insurance or money to pay medical bills.  Not knowing his financial situation, the person in charge at the school insisted Mario leave school and go to the hospital. 

Luckily, a co-worker noticed Mario walking to the hospital and gave him a lift.  The hospital had generously agreed to treat Mario and write off his bill.  After being treated at the emergency room and getting stitched up, the doctor gave Mario a prescription, told him to go home, take some pain medication, and go to bed.  Immediately upon leaving the hospital, Mario walked back to school, finished the day's classes, and took his test - which he aced.  The hospital bill was eventually written off as promised, but there was a mix up and the doctor's bill wasn't.  Rather than complain or walk away from his responsibilities, Mario worked extra hours at his job and did some odd jobs, so he could pay off the doctor bills, which were several hundred dollars.

Unlike most high school juniors, Mario has no parents and must do his own laundry, cook his own meals, and do shopping and housework.  While doing all these things for himself, Mario also has to attend school, do his homework, and study - and as an honors student, he has lots of schoolwork. 

Mario lives with his brother and cousin who are seniors in high school.  He works after school and weekends to pay his share of the rent, utilities, and food.  He has a difficult life, but he remains positive and upbeat.  He loves school and he's looking forward to going on to college.  He wants to work as hard as he can to get good grades and achieve a high SAT score to increase his chances of being accepted to a good collage, and perhaps even get a scholarship. 

In remarks entered into the Congressional Record last summer, Congressman Gary Miller said, "Mario's commitment to education is demonstrated by his perfect attendance record and excellent grades. His ability to excel in school is made all the more impressive when one takes into account the exclusive attention he gives to his home duties, while additionally helping to support himself through work and occupational training.

Despite losing both of his parents at a young age, Mario has remained positive and dedicated to building a prosperous personal and community life.  Mario's overwhelming triumph over difficult and challenging circumstances is both moving and inspiring.

Mario's long list of educational accomplishments include attaining excellent grades, being in the top 2% of his class, achieving perfect attendance, serving as a Junior Class Officer and Key Club Officer, attending after-school occupational training and summer school classes for extra credit.

Mario's decision to remain alcohol, tobacco, drug and gang free and his unlimited future potential serve as an invaluable and exemplary model of dedication, honesty, determination, strength of character and success for his community and peers.

Respected and well liked by all teachers and peers alike, Mario Cruz embodies the finest qualities of America's youth…"

Mario has certainly had his share of adversity to overcome.  His father was abusive and left 11 years ago.  A year later his mother died of cancer and the children were separated.  Mario's sister and younger brother went away to foster homes, and he and his two older brothers were placed locally with relatives who had several children of their own, and were of limited means.  Mario and his two older brothers became self-sufficient far sooner than their contemporaries.  Mario wants to follow in the footsteps of his oldest brother, who earned a full academic scholarship and attends Occidental College.

Diamond Bar Sister City has arranged for some much needed medical and dental care and is also looking for some sponsors to provide Mario with some financial assistance while he attends high school.  If you would like to find out more about Project Mario and the Stay in School program, contact Diamond Bar Sister City at 909-860-6914.

Nick Anis is a local freelance writer with over two dozen books in print.  You can reach him via email at

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Nick Anis is a food, wine, and travel and technology writer with over 24 books in print published by McGraw-Hill, Random House, Bantam, Ziff-Davis, Tab, and others. Nick's articles have appeared in The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, West Coast Media, The Family Publications Group, The Weekly News, and Travel-Watch.  His beats include food, travel, snow and waters sports, entertainment, family recreation, consumer electronics, home improvement, and automotive.  He is responsible for the Restaurant Row Ethnic Dining Guide, co-published by the Long Beach Press Telegram.  Nick is an accomplished downhill skier, PADI certified SCUBA diver, and when he's not sitting on his butt goofing off, enjoys a variety of active recreation including tennis, riding motorcycles, ATVs, wave runners, snow machines, horses, skeet and trap shooting he's also taken a stab at riding camels, donkeys, elephants, ostriches, lamas, dolphins, Reindeer, bulls, mechanical bulls, and buffalo.  Nick is a member (A Secretary/Treasurer) of the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), a member of the North American Snow Sports Journalist Association (NASJA), Computer Press Association, The Writer's Guild, and listed in Books in Print, Media Map, and Press Access.  You can reach Nick at


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